Going by accounts in the last few years of his life, it is difficult to remember Mandela as anything other than a great leader, who helped in South Africa’s healing after the apartheid regime.
Revelations made in the Sunday Times newspaper however take us back to the past when Mandela was considered little more than an armed rebel and a nuisance to the government of that time which ended up in Mandela’s 1962 arrest.
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The revelations were based on an interview with ex-CIA agent Donald Rickard shortly before he died. Rickard died earlier this year and although he was never formally associated with the CIA, he worked as a diplomat in South Africa before retiring in the late 70s.
The interview was handled by a British film director named John Irvin, who was working on and has made a film, Mandela’s Gun, about that brief period of Mandela’s life.
Mandela was arrested near Durban in 1962 and went on to serve a 27 year jail sentence, being finally released in 1990. He went on to be elected as South Africa’s first black president.
Before this particular timeline of events however, he had been the leader of the armed wing of the African National Congress (ANC) and was considered a terrorist. He had reportedly gained a reputation for his ability to evade the security services and had thus earned himself the nickname “the black Pimpernel”.
On that particular night of Mandela’s 1962 arrest, the report has it that he was posing as a chauffeur when his car was stopped at a roadblock by the police in the eastern city of Durban and he was detained.
Rickard is quoted as saying; “I found out when he was coming down and how he was coming… that’s where I was involved and that’s where Mandela was caught”.
The recent admission will back up rumors that have circulated for years on the CIA trailing Mandela and despite the agency’s previous refusals to shine any light on its involvement, this new spin will put more pressure on them to declassify documents from the time.
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In response to the revelations, ANC spokesman Zizi Kodwa told the BBC that he believed that the CIA was still meddling in South African affairs and collaborating with those wanting “regime change”. He said;
“That revelation confirms what we have always known, that they are working against [us], even today.
“It’s not thumb sucked, it’s not a conspiracy [theory]. It is now confirmed that it did not only start now, there is a pattern in history.”
Although an interesting revelation, its hard to tell what repercussions it will have in South Africa in the near or far future, so we will just have to keep our eyes peeled for the rebuttals and possible further revelations that lie ahead. It’s amazing that after all this time Mandela’s 1962 arrest can attract this much attention.